Ahhh SXSW. Every March, more than 2000 musical acts, a ton of new movies and about a billion dorky white tech guys flood into Austin, and things go CRAZY. Streets are closed. Churches, bike shops, and door steps become concert venues. People wearing alien masks and leopard print unitards rollerblade around the streets. IT’S AMAZING.
And best of all for me, two of my best dude friends came into town to enjoy it. This is their third SXSW, so we made a good team — they knew how to navigate the madness, while I was able to direct us without a map.
So, how what should you do to have a successful SXSW even if you don’t have a festival badge?
1. MUSIC. Be open, flexible and enjoy.
There are way too many acts in too short of a time. You know probably won’t get into that the big name acts (Justin Timberlake, why didn’t you put me on the list?!), but that’s ok. You’re going to see acts you’ve never heard of. Some will suck, some will rock, but it will all be an adventure. And free.
Looking for some guidance? Start hitting up NPR music the weeks before SXSW. They love it, and often have some really great suggestions. This year, Stephen Thompson from NPR music put together “The Austin 100,” a downloadable batch of 100 songs from acts performing that is well worth listening to.
If you’re flexible, you may see a “Japanese Action Comic Punk” band like Peelander Z in a small bar.
Or a trio of English sisters like The Staves singing gorgeous folk inspired songs inside a church.
Or see acts like Toro Y Moi, who you’ve always kind of meant to see, but probably would never actually get it together.
Oh, and don’t worry if singers start hanging from ceiling beams. Apparently this is normal for SXSW? At least it is for Mac DeMarco.
2. Freebies/SWAG SWAG SWAG
I don’t really have pictures to illustrate this, but you have to believe me. SXSW is all about swag. The best swag? Two free drinks from the Hype House venue (duh) and free poutine from the Montreal tourism folks who were hosting a bunch of Canadian acts. I also met a tech guy, UCLA alum who gave my friend and I light-up, motion sensor bracelets. A fashion statement piece if I ever saw one.
SXSW is a marathon event. You are walking all day long in the sun. As someone who has a horribly burnt back right now, don’t forget your sunscreen! Wear comfy shoes, even if they don’t really go with your hipster SXSW ensemble. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Find places where you can just sit down for a while. It will feel sooooo good.
Do you see how happy we look? That’s because we found CHAIRS and free WATER in this church. It was the best.
So, uh, there is a lot of delicious food in Austin, and a lot of it comes out during SXSW. Believe me, it’s well worth putting any calorie counting on hold for the weekend. I’m going to write a special post about our trip to Franklin’s BBQ, aka THE BEST BBQ IN THE WORLD, but we ate so much more than just that. Tacos, breakfast tacos, more tacos. Queso. Ice cream. Food truck food including amazing lime tator tots and Korean quesadillas. It’s allllll good.
Um, my friends love me and won’t hate me for posting unflattering pictures, right? Because I feel like this picture sums up how we went crazy on the food at Torchy’s Tacos.
And Amy’s ice cream makes us happy. Obviously.
5. Be open. Meet people. Adventure.
In line for BBQ, we met a guy from Montreal who was playing somewhere later that day. It just happened that he was playing after a band we were trying to see, and very sweetly put us on the guest list so we didn’t have to play. That’s SXSW magic.
We met two sweet 20 year old guys who, after asking my friend for all sorts of girl advice, gave us a rap performance right there at the bus stop. Amazing.
Getting to my house after a long day was rough, but we caught a bus back to campus with a MILLION undergrads, including a very drunk, newly 21 year old and her whole crew. Recipe for disaster? Oh yes. But you know what, it was also one of the silliest, most fun moments of the whole she-bang.
Yes, it was that packed. And yes, I was that excited. Also, I apparently couldn’t remember which way to turn my hand to do the UT Longhorn thingy. Whoops.